Police took a man into custody on Saturday night following the murder of Tongan LGBTIQ+ activist Poli Kefu. The much-loved activist was president of the Tongan Leitis Association — a trans advocacy group. He also worked for the Tongan Red Cross Society.
A suspect surrendered to police on Saturday night. A homicide investigation began earlier, after the discovery of Poli Kefu’s body on a beach near his home.
“Police have charged a 27-year-old man from Fungamisi Vavaú, residing at Halaleva, with murder in relation to the death of 41-year-old Polikalepo Kefu of Lapaha on Saturday 1st of May 2021.
“This is a tragic event, and our thoughts are with Mr Kefu’s family, friends, and wider community.”
However, the police would not say if they considered the murder a hate crime at this time.
Tributes for Poli Kefu’s activism came from both locals and across the Pacific.
UNAIDS (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) praised Poli as a ‘strong human rights activist’.
“Especially for transwomen (Leitis) and in the HIV response in Tonga and the Pacific for many years.
“He dedicated his life for the safety of others in Tonga.”
The Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network called him a true humanitarian worker who dedicated his life to volunteerism.
“We will miss his quiet demure but cheerful smile and beautiful charisma, your death will not be in vain Poli.”
The Network also described Poli Kefu as “passionate, critical, kick-ass, funny and a diehard human rights activist.”
Tongan princess Hon. Frederica Tuita, a longtime ally of the local LGBTIQ+ community, shared the news of his death with the hashtag #JusticeForPoli.
“This one really hurts. We are absolutely devastated to hear of dear Poli’s passing.”
Tonga Leitis Association
Joey Joleen Mataele from the Leitis Association said the organisation would continue Poli Kefu’s advocacy.
“We never thought that this kind of brutal murder would happen in Tonga.
“He was absolutely one in a million.”
Ms Matele said the death illustrated that governments still need to enact better protections.
“This is the time to push for change. We need the government to recognise we have the right to be protected.”
Others also paid tribute to Poli Kefu’s climate activism and work for women’s rights.
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